Unstoppable Pons dreams of making it big
DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines -- It wasn't love at first sight for Bernadeth Pons and volleyball. As a matter of fact, she was a varsity softball player in Grade 3.
But seeing her friends frequently play volleyball got Pons hooked. And not long after, she became the most feared spiker in town.
Not surprisingly, Pons loved volleyball because of that feeling that spiking it hard brings.
"I feel great when I spike," the Western Visayas star volleybelle told Rappler. "It's really a different feeling, especially when I kill it and score."
A few months from now, we will be seeing Pons strut her stuff in the UAAP, donning the Green and Gold for a rebuilding team. With her powerful attacks, the 16-year-old reminds us a lot of fellow Negros Occidental product and collegiate scoring machine Angela Benting.
Mountain of woes
With a chance to deliver those jarring spikes inside the Mall of Asia Arena or the Araneta Coliseum looming in the horizon, Pons recalls how hard it was to train in a public school that didn't have the newest of equipment and the best of faciltiies.
"Sometimes, I envy athletes from private schools because they have good gear and they are trained well," Pons, who graduated from Rafael B. Lacson Memorial School, shared.
According to Pons, their gym was usually unavailable because of the lack of electricity and scheduling constraints. Because of this, she was forced to look for training elsewhere.
Luckily for her, schools like University of St. La Salle sometimes included her in their sessions because the Stingers' coaches saw Pons' potential.
"If I don't train well, I might lose my form," she said. "That's why I try to join trainings of other schools when they invite me."
Compounding her woes is the fact that she lives in a remote area in Talisay and she has to wake up early to have enough time to travel to her school, which is in the downtown.
After her classes, she has to wait for three more hours for their school training and if she gets invited by other schools, then she has to take a ride to Bacolod and return home late at night.
"When I get home, I still have to study that's why I don't get to sleep much," Pons added.
When they compete in tournaments, Pons receive minimal financial support from the school and although she fully understands that, she also doesn't really have enough to fill in the lacking money they need in competitions.
"Instead of spending our money on food, we use it for transportation, uniform and equipment," Pons related. "That's why we are hungry most of the time."
Opportunity to get better
Hers is a common problem among student-athletes in public academic institutions. And like many of them who went on to succeed despite the hindrances, Pons saw the hurdle as an opportunity to get better.
"Because we were at a disadvantage in some things, we just relied on our will to win games," she said. "We made sure that we gave it our all and do well to be able to win a lot of games."
With the dream of making it big in the Big City someday, Pons said that she brings her game to a whole new level whenever she sees scouts and coaches roaming around playing venues, especially in the Palaro, where she has been one of the most watched-for players in the last 6 years.
"I step my game up whenever I see them," she quipped. "I really want to study in Manila and help my family after I graduate."
The first step in achieving that goal has been made, as Pons has received a scholarship to play for Far Eastern University, where she will be teaming up with ex-UAAP Best Setter Gyzelle Sy.
"I feel like I'm gonna be at home with FEU," she added. "I like Coach Kid Santos."
A plea to fellow athletes from public schools
For now, though, she's not thinking about college as there remains work to be done. Western Visayas is raring to return to the top of the volleyball ladder after losing the crown to NCR in 2012.
"I want to win the championship this year so that I will have a good exit in high school," she said. "We are dedicating this year's campaign to our family, friends and the whole region."
And before she leaves the Palaro, Pons has just one more request from the government.
"I feel that they should focus more on sports development and give them more budget," she shared. "By joining sports, the youth will be driven away from bad vices."
She also has a plea to athletes from public schools.
"I hope that they will never give up," Pons related. "Just work hard and give your all in everything. Grab every opportunity and never lose hope because once you love what you do and believe in your ability, you will definitely go a long way."
Born to a poor family and trained in an environment that lacked virtually everything, Pons sure knows what she's talking about.
After all, sports was her way out of misery. And eventually, she hopes that it will be her ticket out of poverty. - Rappler.com